Brazil’s illegal treatment of women in prison
Under Brazilian law, women shall be held in prisons exclusively for women; in reality most of them are housed in wings within male prisons, where the risk of abuse is high. Alongside Brazil’s female prison population has increased by 161% in the last decade.29 Mar 2017
Several women reported to a public defender and to the Pastoral Carcerária, a Catholic nongovernmental group, that during a 2015 riot in Minas Gerais, male prisoners broke into their wing and raped them.
Brazilian law also prohibits women’s prisons from using male guards. But last October, several women at Bom Pastor women’s prison in Recife separately told Human Rights Watch researchers that they witnessed the same male guard verbally harass and grope inmates.
Brazil’s female prison population has increased by 161 percent in the last decade, a faster rate than for men. At Bom Pastor, we found 630 women crammed into cells built for 270. Water was available only three times a day, and during rain, pipes clogged and sewage water covered the yard—leaving standing water for mosquitos to breed. Feces floated up from drains into cells.
Although a nurse told “Wiviane,” a 28-year-old mother of two serving seven years for trafficking 45 grams of crack cocaine, that she had symptoms of the Zika virus, she was never tested. Zika is especially dangerous for pregnant women, as it can cause neurological damage in fetuses. Although Wiviane was not pregnant, testing her could have shown if virus-carrying mosquitos were breeding in Bom Pastor, which at the time held at least six pregnant inmates.
Brazil’s prison system has only 37 gynecologists on staff, less than one for every 900 women. The women at Bom Pastor hadn’t even been issued tampons since 2015, a detainee told us.
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